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Gregory Palamas: A New Testament Decalogue

1. 'The Lord your God is one Lord' (cf. Deut. 6:4), revealed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: in the unbegotten Father; in the Son, who is begotten eternally, tunelessly and impassibly as the Logos, and who through Himself anointed that which He assumed from us and so is called Christ; and in the Holy Spirit, who also comes forth from the Father, not begotten, but proceeding. This alone is God and alone is true God, the one Lord in a Trinity of hypostases, undivided in nature, will, glory, power, energy, and all the characteristics of divinity.

Him alone shall you love and Him alone shall you worship with all your mind and with all your heart and with all your strength. And His words and His commandments shall be in your heart so that you carry them out and meditate on them and speak of them both sitting and walking, lying down and standing up (cf Deut. 6:5, 6, 7). And you shall remember the Lord your God always and fear Him alone (cf Deut. 8:18; 6:13); and you shall not forget Him or His commandments, for thus shall He give you strength to do His will. For He requires nothing else from you except that you fear and love Him and walk in all His ways (cf. Deut. 10:12).

'He is your boast and He is your God' (cf. Deut. 10:21). When you hear of the impassible and invisible nature of the supramundane angels and of the wicked nature - wise, acute and extremely crafty in deceit - of him who fell away from that realm, do not think that any such being is equal with God. Seeing the greatness of the heaven and its manifold motions, the sun's brilliance, the shining of the moon, the bright twinkle of the stars, the beneficial breezes of the air, the broad back of sea and land, do not make a god of any of them. For all are servants and creations of the one God, brought forth from non-being by His Logos. 'For He spake and they came into being; He commanded and they were created' (Ps. 33:9. LXX). Him alone, therefore, the Master and Creator of all, you should glorify as God and through love you should cleave to Him; before Him you should repent day and night for your deliberate and unintentional lapses. For 'He is compassionate and merciful, long-suffering and full of mercy' (Ps. 103:8) and eternally bountiful. He has promised and He actually gives a celestial, unending kingdom, a painless existence, an immortal life and unwanmg light for the delight of those who revere and worship Him and who love and keep His commandments.

Yet God is also a 'jealous God' (Exod. 20:5), a just judge who takes terrible vengeance on those who dishonor Him, who disobey Him and who scorn His commandments, visiting them with eternal chastisement, unquenchable fire, unceasing pain, unconsolable affliction, a cloak of lugubrious darkness, an obscure and grievous region, piteous gnashing of teeth, venomous and sleepless worms - things He prepared for that first evil apostate together with all those deluded by him who became his followers, rejecting their Creator in their actions, words and thoughts.

2. 'You shall not make an image of anything in the heavens above, or in the earth below, or in the sea' (cf Exod. 20:4), in such a way that you worship these things and glorify them as gods. For all are the creations of the one God, created by Him in the Holy Spirit through His Son and Logos, who as Logos of God in these latter times took flesh from a virgin's womb, appeared on earth and associated with men (cf Baruch 3:37), and who for the salvation of men suffered, died and arose again, ascended with His body into the heavens and 'sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High' (Heb. I :3), and who will come again with His body to judge the living and the dead. Out of love for Him you should make, therefore, an icon of Him who became man for our sakes, and through His icon you should bring Him to mind and worship Him, elevating your intellect through it to the venerable body of the Savior, that is set on the right hand of the Father in heaven. In like manner you should also make icons of the saints and venerate them, not as gods - for this is forbidden - but because of the attachment, inner affection and sense of surpassing honor that you feel for the saints when by means of their icons the intellect is raised up to them. It was in this spirit that Moses made icons of the Cherubim within the Holy of Holies (cf. Exod. 25:18). The Holy of Holies itself was an image of things supracelestial (cf. Exod. 25:40; Heb. 8:5), while the Holy Place was an image of the entire world. Moses called these things holy, not glorifying what is created, but thrown it glorifying God the Creator of the world. You must not, then, deiiy the icons of Christ and of the saints, but through them you should venerate Him who originally created us in His own image, and who subsequently consented in His ineffable compassion to assume the human image and to be circumscribed by it.

You should venerate not only the icon of Christ, but also the similitude of His cross. For the cross is Christ's great sign and trophy of victory over the devil and all his hostile hosts; for this reason they tremble and flee when they see the figuration of the cross. This figure, even prior to the crucifixion, was greatly glorified by the prophets and wrought great wonders; and when He who was hung upon it, our Lord Jesus Christ, comes again to judge the living and the dead, this His great and terrible sign will precede Him, full of power and glory (cf Matt. 24:30). So glorify the cross now, so that you may boldly look upon it then and be glorified with it. And you should venerate icons of the saints, for the saints have been crucified with the Lord; and you should make the sign of the cross upon your person before doing so, bringing to mind their communion in the sufferings of Christ. In the same way you should venerate their holy shrines and any relic of their bones; for God's grace is not sundered from these things, even as the divinity was not sundered from Christ's venerable body at the time of His life-quickening death. By doing this and by glorifying those who glorified God - for through their actions they showed themselves to be perfect in their love for God - you too will be glorified together with them by God, and with David you will chant: 'I have held Thy friends in high honor, Lord' (Ps. 159: 17. LXX).

3. 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain' (Exod. 20:7), swearing an oath falsely because of some worldly thing, or out of human fear, or shame, or for personal gain. For a false oath is a denial of God. For this reason you should not take an oath at all (cf. Matt. 5:34). Avoid oaths altogether, since through an oath a man forswears himself, and this estranges him from God and numbers him among the wrongdoers. If you are truthful in all your words, that will convey the certainty of an oath.' Should you, however, bind yourself with an oath - something to be deprecated - you must fulfill it as a legal obligation, provided it involves something permitted by the divine law; but you should hold yourself at fault because you swore at all, and by acts of mercy, supplication, grief and bodily hardship you should ask Christ's forgiveness, since He said you should not swear oaths. If, on the other hand, you take an oath that involves something that is unlawful, beware lest on account of your oath you do what is wrong and are numbered with Herod, the prophet-slayer (cf. Matt. 14:7-9). And when you have put that unlawful oath behind you, make it a rule never again to take an oath, and with tears ask more intensely for God's forgiveness, using the remedies already mentioned.

4. One day of the week you should 'keep holy' (Exod. 20:8): that which is called the Lord's day, because it is consecrated to the Lord, who on that day arose from the dead, disclosing and giving prior assurance of the general resurrection, when every earthly activity will come to an end. And you must not engage in any worldly activity that is not essential; and you must allow those who are under your authority and those who live with you to rest, so that together you may all glorify Him who redeemed us through His death and who arose from the dead and resurrected our human nature with Himself. You should bring to mind the age to come and meditate upon all the commandments and statutes of the Lord, and you should examine yourself to see whether you have transgressed or overlooked any of them, and you should correct yourself in all ways. On this day you should go to the temple of God and attend the services held there and with sincere faith and a clean conscience you should receive the holy body and blood of Christ. You should make a beginning of a more perfect life and renew and prepare yourself for the reception of the eternal blessings to come. For the sake of these same blessings you must not misuse material things on the other days of the week either; but on the Lord's day, so as to be constantly near to God, abstain from all activities except those which are absolutely necessary and which you have to perform in order to live. God thus being your refuge, you will not be distracted, the fire of the passions will not bum you, and you will be free from the burden of sin. In this way you will sanctify the Sabbath, observing it by doing no evil deeds. To the Lord's day you should join the days dedicated to the great feasts, doing the same things and abstaining from the same things.

5. 'Honour your father and your mother' (Exod. 20: 12), for it is through them that God has brought you into this life and they, after God, are the causes of your existence. Thus after God you should honor them and love them, provided that your love for them strengthens your love for God. If it does not, flee from them, yet without feelings of hatred. Should they actually be a hindrance to you - especially with respect to the true and saving faith because they profess some other faith - you should not merely flee from them, but also hate them, and not them alone but all relatives and everyone else bound to you by affection or other union, and, indeed, the very limbs of your body and their appetites, and your body itself and its bond with the passions. For 'if anyone does not hate his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, and if he does not take up his cross and follow Me. he is not. worthy of Me', Christ said (cf Luke 14:26-27; Matt. 10:37). Such is the way in which you are to act towards your earthly parents and your friends and brethren. But if they share your faith and do not hinder you in your quest for salvation, you should honor and love them.

If it is thus with natural fathers, how much more should you honor and love those who are your spiritual fathers. For they have brought you from a state of mere existence to a state of virtue and spiritual health; they have transmitted to you the illumination of knowledge, have taught you the revelation of the truth, have given you rebirth through the water of regeneration and have instilled in you the hope of resurrection and immortality, and of the eternal kingdom and inheritance. In this way they have converted you from being unworthy to being worthy of eternal blessings, have transformed you from an earthly into a heavenly being, and have made you eternal instead of temporal, a son and disciple not of a man, but of the God-man Jesus Christ, who bestowed upon you the Spirit of adoption, and who told you not to call anyone on earth your father or teacher, because you have only one Father and Teacher, namely Christ (cf. Matt. 23:9-10). You must, therefore, render all honor and love to your spiritual fathers, since the honor rendered to them redounds to Christ and the all-holy Spirit, in whom you received adoption, and to the heavenly Father, 'from whom derives all fatherhood in heaven and on earth' (Eph. 3:15) You should strive to have a spiritual father throughout your life and to confess to him every sin and every evil thought and to receive from him healing and remission. For they have been given the power to bind and to unbind souls, and whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever they unbind on earth will be unbound in heaven (cf. Matt. 18:18). This grace and power they have received from Christ, and so you should obey them and not gainsay them, lest you bring destruction upon your soul. For if a person who gainsays his natural parents in matters not interdicted by the divine law is - according to the law (cf Exod. 21 : 17) - to be put to death, how will he who contradicts his spiritual fathers not expel the Spirit of God from himself and destroy his soul? For this reason be counseled by your spiritual fathers and obey them till the end, so that you may save your soul and inherit eternal and untarnished blessings.

6. 'You shall not be unchaste' (Exod. 20:14), lest instead of being united to Christ you become united to a prostitute (cf. I Cor. 6:15), severing yourself from the divine body, forfeiting the divine inheritance and throwing yourself into hell. According to the law (cf. Lev. 21:9), a daughter of a priest caught whoring is to be burnt, for she dishonors her father; how much more, then, does the person who defiles the body of Christ deserve endless chastisement. If you are capable of it, embrace the path of virginity, so that you may become wholly God's and may cleave to Him with perfect love, all your life devoting yourself undistractedly to the Lord and to what belongs to Him (cf. I Cor. 7:32), and in this way anticipating the life to come and living as an angel of God on earth. For the angels are characterized by virginity and if you cleave to virginity you emulate them with your body, in so far as this is possible. Or, rather, prior to them you emulate the Father who in virginity begot the Son before all ages, and also the virginal Son who in the beginning came forth from the virginal Father by way of generation, and in these latter times was born in the flesh of a virginal Mother; you likewise emulate the Holy Spirit who ineffably proceeds from the Father alone, not by way of generation, but by procession. Hence if you practice true chastity in soul and body you emulate God and are joined to Him in imperishable wedlock, embellishing every sensation, word and thought with virginal beauty.

If, however, you do not choose to live in virginity and have not promised God that you will do this, God's law allows you to marry one woman and to live with her alone and to hold her in holiness as your own wife (cf. I Thess. 4:4), abstaining entirely from other women. You can totally abstain from them if you shun untimely meetings with them, do not indulge in lewd words and stories and, as far as you can, avoid looking at them with the eyes of both body and soul, training yourself not to gaze overmuch upon the beauty of their faces. For 'whoever looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart' (Matt. 5:28), and in this way he is impure before Christ who sees his heart; and the next step is that he commits shameless acts with his body also. But why do I speak of fornication and adultery and other natural abominations? For by looking overfondly on the beauty of bodies a person is dragged down unrestrainedly into lascivious acts contrary to all nature. Thus, if you cut away from yourself the bitter roots, you will not reap the deadly harvest but, on the contrary, you will gather the fruits of chastity and the holiness which it confers, and without which 'no one will see the Lord' (Heb. 12:14).

7. 'You shall not kilF (Exod. 20:15), lest you forfeit the adoption of Him who quickens even the dead, and because of your actions are adopted instead by the devil, who was 'a murderer from the beginning' (John 8:44). As murder results from a blow, a blow from an insult, an insult from anger, and we are roused to anger because someone else injures, hits or insults us, for this reason Christ told us not to stop anyone who took our coat from taking our shirt also (cf Luke 6:29); and we must not strike back at him who strikes us, or revile him who reviles us. In this manner we will free from the crime of murder both our self and him who does us wrong. Further, we will be forgiven our sins, since He says, 'Forgive and you will be forgiven' (cf. Matt. 6:14). But the person who speaks and acts evilly will be condemned to eternal chastisement. For Christ said, 'Whoever shall say to his brother ' You fool' shall be guilty enough to go to the hell of fire' (Matt. 5:22). If, then, you can eradicate this evil, calling down upon your soul the benediction of gentleness, then glorify Christ, the teacher and ministrant of every virtue, without whom, as we have been taught, we can do nothing good (cf. John 15:5). But if you are unable to bridle your temper, censure yourself whenever you lose it, and repent before God and before anyone to whom you have spoken or have acted evilly. If you repent at the inception of sin you will not commit the sin itself; but if you feel no pang in committing minor offences you will through them fall into major transgressions.

8. 'You shall not steal' (Exod. 20:15), lest He who knows things secret increases your punishment because you have set Him at naught. Rather you should secretly give from what you have to those in need, so that you receive from God, who sees in secret, a hundred times more, as well as life eternal in the age to come (cf. Matt. 6:4; Mark 10:30).

9. 'You shall not accuse anyone falsely' (cf. Exod. 20: 16), lest you become like the devil, who falsely accused God to Eve and was cursed by God (cf. Gen. 3:14). Rather, you should conceal your neighbor's offence, unless by so doing others may be injured; and in this way you will imitate not Ham, but Shem and Japheth, and so like them receive the blessing (cf. Gen. 9:25-7).

10. 'You shall not covet anything belonging to your neighbor' (cf. Exod 20:17), neither his land, nor his money, nor his glory, nor anything that is his. For covetousness, conceived in the soul, produces sin; and sin, when committed, results in death (cf . Jas. 1:15). Refrain, then, from coveting what belongs to others and, so far as you can, avoid filching things out of greediness. Rather you should give from what you possess to whoever asks of you, and you should, as much as you can, be charitable to whoever is in need of charity, and you should not refuse whoever wants to borrow from you (cf Matt. 5:42). Should you find some lost article, you should keep it for its owner, even though he is hostilely disposed towards you; for in this way you will change him and will overcome evil with good, as Christ commands (cf. Rom. 12:21).

If you observe these things with all your strength and live in accordance with them, you will store up in your soul the treasures of holiness, you will please God, you will be rewarded by God and by those who are godly, and you will inherit eternal blessings. May we all receive such blessings through the grace and compassion of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom with His unorigmate Father and the all-holy, bountiful and life-quickening Spirit are due all glory, honor and worship, now and ever and through all the ages. Amen.

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